Age has not withered their infinite variety

Sat, Jun 5, 2010, 01:00

MARY HANNIGANbrings the RTÉ soccer panel of Bill O’Herlihy, John Giles and Eamon Dunphy together for food, drink and, not surprisingly, a little argument on a roundabout route to this year’s World Cup

LUNCHTIME IN Dublin, the first floor French windows of Bentley’s restaurant on St Stephen’s Green are wide open to allow in a little air on a decidedly balmy afternoon. The exchanges are lively, perhaps baffling one or two of the people ambling by below.

(“Can you hear Bill O’Herlihy, John Giles and Eamon Dunphy arguing about Saipan?” “Don’t be stup . . . God, yeah.” “Freaky.”)

Back upstairs, it all kicks off when the topic turns to love songs.

“See? Now you know how difficult it can be to control the panel,” says O’Herlihy as Giles and Dunphy lock horns over the difference between “romance” and “mush”. No quarter asked, none given. The tone is set for the afternoon.

JG and BO’H: Put the tape recorders over there, beside Eamon, we won’t get a word in.

ED: No, no, no, I don’t want to be quoted.

JG and BO’H: (Loud guffaws).

In the beginning . . .

ED: The three of us first worked together on the 1986 World Cup. Jesus, 24 years ago.

JG: But Bill and Eamon go back longer, they started in 1978, I came in in ’86 with Eamon’s persuasion. So the basic principles, which were very important for the success of the programme, were set in place by then.

BO’H: I had been offered the opportunity to go to the ’78 World Cup in Argentina as a commentator, but I reckoned I would be doing matches of no consequence and getting about two minutes on air. So, as much as I’d have loved to have gone, I said no. If I wanted to develop a career, then studio would be better for me. And they were delighted, because it was the Valley of the Blind in RTÉ that summer, everybody was gone, I was the one-eyed man left, so I got the studio gig. That’s when Eamon came in. I had done an interview with him – remember? – after the Chilean tour.

ED: (Laughing) Oh yeah. Don’t mention the Chilean tour, Bill.

JG: (Laughing) No, we don’t mention Chile, Bill.

BO’H: Eamon, if you remember, was against the idea of Ireland going there because of Allende and all that. And then he went.

JG: (Chuckles).

BO’H: And I did an interview with him for a Sunday night programme – which you were surprised was so hostile, weren’t you Eamon?

ED: I was, yeah.

BO’H: But I was very impressed by Eamon’s response. So that was how it started, really. We worked with two great people at the time, Mike Horgan and Tim O’Connor, and they put the package together. We were working in a continuity studio, no advertising breaks, 15 minutes without an ad at half-time.

ED: There was no audience.

JG: (Laughing) Well, you had Bill’s family and Eamon’s family watching. That was it.

ED: RTÉ didn’t have any credibility then against BBC and ITV. ITV actually had the first panel – and believe it or not I drafted that proposal and gave it in to London Weekend. They took the proposal and dumped me (laughs). But they had Malcolm Allison, Paddy Crerand, Jimmy Hill, Jack Charlton, Brian Clough, they were big. So Bill and I did it for eight years, up against that.

But I was increasingly out on a limb. Like all the best stories this one is true: The Platini European Championships, 1984. My contention was that he wasn’t a great player, that he was only a good player and that he’d be found out before the end of the tournament. It caused massive consternation in the pubs and everywhere on the street because I was challenging convention. The worst moment was the time I said “Today’s the day he’s going to get found out” . . . and he scored a hat-trick.

JG: (Chuckles).

ED: John was in town and we went for a few jars. It was kind of wrecking my head, although I wasn’t letting on. I said to John, “Am I f***ing wrong about Platini?” and he said “No, you’re right – but you’re wrong to be saying it on television”.

ALL: (Laughter).

ED: So the penny dropped. By the sort of rigorous standards you ought to set for great players, he didn’t quite match up, in John’s opinion – and John was the best judge of all, and still is. So I realised then we needed John to make the thing work, because I wasn’t going to be credible saying these things.

BO’H: It needed a second opinion anyway.

ED: Yeah, definitely, we’d run our course. So we went to Tim and Mike, before the ’86 World Cup, and told them we needed to get John. But when John was in the game he was notoriously uncooperative with journalists and he wouldn’t say anything in any interviews. That’s true, isn’t it?

JG: Oh, totally.

ED: Monosyllabic.

JG: I have to come in there and explain. I had to be like that. I was a manager and when you’re a manager you have to be very protective of your players, which means you don’t say too much in interviews, certainly nothing that can be taken as criticism of individuals. So, I wasn’t very popular with the newspaper guys.

ED: So the lads didn’t want John, at any price, because they didn’t think he’d work. But I believed he would, and Bill believed he would. I knew the depth of his knowledge and his ability to convey it. We got right down to the wire, so I said to them “if you don’t do it I’m giving up”. They weren’t paying me a lot, I was doing work outside sport then, for the Sunday Independent, and I just said I’m going to make an awful eejit of myself – more of an eejit than I was looking at that stage, which was pretty bad. So a week before the World Cup they gave in. We got John and it transformed it in that month. People, I think, were very pleased to see John – thank God, a sane man with Bill, sanity prevails!

It was great for me because the pressure was off, I could still go on expressing my thing, but John was very sober, he brought gravitas and a depth of knowledge.

JG: But I was doing it in a very casual way, I just saw it as a one-off gig for three or four weeks and that would be the end of it. But I was finished in management then so I could actually express myself in the way I wanted.

BO’H: I didn’t know John at all then. I remember being very intimidated about the idea of him coming in, because I’m an ordinary punter. I was afraid my obvious lack of knowledge would show up and that I’d be put upon, like Dunphy does so regularly. I thought the two of them would be grinding me down.

In fact, the thing I’ve found about John ever since is that he’s never condescended, he’s never patronised – in fact, I know an awful lot more now about football than I ever did largely because of the two lads.

But I was intimidated and I found that it was completely misplaced. John wasn’t like that at all – despite all his knowledge, he’s quite a humble guy.

ED: Well, that’s a bad read.

ALL: (Laughter).

ED: I haven’t seen a lot of humility!

JG: I’d be inclined to agree, Bill, but Eamon wouldn’t.

ED: I’ve only known him 58 years.

BO’H: Well I think you’re humble anyway, John.

JG: Thank you Bill.

ED: There’s not a lot of humility in the room with those two boys. I’m humble, but that’s another story.

The toy department

ED: We’re only doing a job, it’s minor league stuff in the bigger scheme of things, but you have to believe it’s important – and it is important. We’re not curing any sick patients, we’re not splitting the atom, but if you start thinking in those terms then you won’t take your work seriously. Sports journalism . . . it used to be called the toy department – well, it is the toy department, but we love toys.

JG: Toys are very important.

ALL: (Laughter)

BO’H: But we work hard in advance deciding what we’ll show before a match and what are the central areas to be discussed, so it isn’t just going in with our hands in our pockets. There’s an awful lot of work done in advance and I think that has shown through the years.

ED: The thing is . . . there are among the football community conversations and arguments about players and teams, and what our programme has to do is plug in to that conversation. And the genuine lovers of sport are very much more informed about football or rugby or golf than they are given credit for. I would argue that there are people playing junior soccer, schoolboy soccer, people who just watch the game, who would have a great knowledge of it, and they can be part of that conversation. And that’s the way sport should work, it’s a communal activity. What we try to do is be part of that community, which doesn’t mean being a smartass, doesn’t mean always being right; it means being prepared to go out on a limb.

BO’H: We actually did a survey around the time of the 1990 World Cup which indicated that only about 32 per cent of the audience understood football, which meant from my perspective that it was very important that the questions that would illuminate their knowledge would be asked. We concentrated on that.

ED: Bill is brilliant, he’s a great broadcast journalist, he can actually ask the questions that are lingering out there for people who really don’t know. You see, you don’t see much reality on television or hear it on radio, it’s all faked in one way or another. Everyone’s spoofing in some form or other. And that’s the way the media world is going: the glib, the gloss, the lightweight, the neutered. Inoffensive is what they think the audience wants. They do all their focus groups. I wouldn’t get a gig in RTÉ now if I was starting out.

JG: Me neither.

ED: Bill tries to bring it to a level where . . . I know a lot of women watch the panel because it has its own internal dynamic: that nice man John, that blackguard Dunphy, isn’t Bill nice and all that stuff. And Liam (Brady). Liam was great when he came in, he brought a rigour and a crankiness and an irascibility to it that no one could predict, even John? Could you John? (Laughing)

JG: No. The thing, too, is that people in sport generally are hungry for knowledge, but they want an honest opinion. And they know they’ll get an honest opinion from us, even if we’re not always going to get it right. Bill’s main contribution is to broaden the discussion, to bring issues in to the conversation beyond just the technical aspects of the game – which, hopefully, we cover too. And it has to be broader than that to appeal to the general public. And, as Eamon said, there are a lot of women who watch the programme . . .

ED: They fancy me.

ALL: (Laughter).

BO’H: D’you know something, he believes that too.

JG: We have a saying for Eamon – he flies at 5,000 feet, but we’re grounded. It’s a combination of everything. Eamon will broaden the discussion – and this is where he comes in to his own — in ways that I wouldn’t be able to do or Bill wouldn’t be able to do, but we contribute to it once Bill initiates or provokes the conversation.

Across the water

ED: When I watch Alan Hansen and Shearer, or Jamie Redknapp, it embarrasses me. Anyone who comes out of this country, playing even the most basic sport like soccer, can express themselves, they have a certain modesty about them and they don’t mangle the English language.

Now, I think that’s nice, it’s nice for our culture, it matters a lot. When you listen to, say, Liam (Brady), you’re listening to a fully-rounded, educated human being who can talk and converse and express himself in a proper way. And if you go to France and listen to the French players, listen to Italian players, Spanish players, they’re perfectly articulate, perfectly intelligent.

JG: They’ve better English than most of the English lads.

ED: The English Industrial Revolution underclass, I always hated that being associated with my sport, which is actually a quite beautiful sport.

BO’H: You can see now where he’s coming from on the programme, can’t you?

JG: He’s at 4,000 feet at the moment.

ED: And rising baby! But, look, the likes of Sky Sports just insult their audience.

BO’H: It’s the lowest common denominator.

JG: But that’s what they think appeals to their audience. It’s dreadful. Most of the time I switch it off because I know what they’re doing at Sky. They are appealing to the lowest common denominator. They don’t give the football public any credit.

BO’H: John, you told me years ago that you gave up working on Sky because the people you were working with didn’t know what they were talking about – and they were professional footballers.

JG: I did very little for Sky because they didn’t want me. I was on a couple of times and I knew I wouldn’t be on again. I was never asked again.

ED: But you couldn’t work with dum-dums. We’ve had a few dum-dums over the years, during World Cups.

JG: And they do my head in because in any conversational company you’re only as good as the people you’re in conversation with. If you’re with dum-dums you can’t have a conversation because there’s no response.

ED: But they – especially ITV – used to use big characters, with opinions. Then they got their wings clipped – they wouldn’t get jobs now. They’re not bland enough, they’re not Andy Townsend, to put it bluntly. Or Jamie Redknapp, to put it even more bluntly.

BO’H: But what you have to recognise is that we can afford to be a lot more honest because our investment in the game is much less than ITV or Sky. They have an enormous investment. And I know that certain people, without mentioning names, who have worked for Sky told us that you can’t say what you want really because they don’t want their games rubbished.

ED: Sky don’t want to rock any boats, but they miss the point. Soccer is popular culture. If it was literature, opera, music, theatre . . . good criticism, informed criticism, enhances the experience of watching a play, reading a book, or whatever. For them . . . the guy watching is a couch potato, he’s got a can of beer in his hand and he’s showing off to his mates. If you look at the beer ads around soccer there’s a caricature of the working class experience. It’s a yob, it’s a guy showing off to his girlfriend, it’s a guy with his mates, he’s half cut, and that’s their audience, the couch potatoes who are drunk.

Well, that’s not our audience. They are actually interested in the analysis, they’re interested in good conversation, honest opinions . . . they’re not half cut on the couch looking to be patronised.

JG: They aren’t in England either. But what they get is Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, whoever, saying “ah, England were great” – even when they weren’t. It’s like with Ronaldo . . .

ED: Never even a dissenting murmur.

JG: Never. You have Jamie Redknapp showing a clip of Rooney when he lost the ball and then chased back. And he says: “That’s what great players do”. But he doesn’t set that standard for Ronaldo, who, he told us, was the greatest player in the world! You can’t have it both ways.

But Ronaldo’s just one example, I’m not just making it about him. He has great qualities. But when we’re honest about him we have people complaining – we don’t dislike him, Eamon doesn’t, Bill doesn’t.

ED: I envy him.

JG: That’s just because he’s good looking and he’s a good singer. Apparently he sings Stardust better than you, Eamon.

BO’H: That wouldn’t be hard.

ED: Bill!

Musical interlude 1: Romance or mush?

JG: Right, a Perry Como song from years ago. A great song. A real love song. (Clears throat).

When I’m alone at night and there’s no one to comfort me, I think of you and suddenly my pillow is your face and your arms.

ED: Too mushy for me.

JG: . . . and it’s as though I’ve crawled beneath a blanket . . .

ED: Oh for f*** sake, chief.

JG: . . . soft and warm.Ah, this is nice Eamon.

ED: Sorry.

JG: This is a love song.

ED: I know. It’s mush.

JG: How did I get from dark to daylight till you happened to pass by?

ED: Where’s the rigour?

JG: . . . who knows how many times I pause in every day to think of yooooou.

ED: It’s a bullshitter’s song.

JG: . . . as often as the sun sails out upon the silent sea.

ED: I don’t believe you ever said that to anybody.

(Nobby Stiles?)

ED: Big Jack?

JG: . . . I think of you, I think of yooooou.


ED: That was shite.

JG: No, it’s a lovely song!

ED: Mush.

JG: Romance, Eamon, romance.

ED: That’s not romance, that’s shite. That’s the sort of thing you sing to an auld wan at half four in the morning. I like the words of a song, I don’t like that stuff. That’s mush.

JG: It’s not.

ED: It is.

JG: It’s beautiful.

ED: It’s NOT beautiful! It says a lot about you . . .

JG: No, no, no.

ED: We need Liam here for a bit of rigour. I’d say Liam would have pressed the buzzer there, called a halt. Mush.

The Italian Job

BO’H: Ah, 1990 was an extraordinary time, Ireland qualifying for the World Cup for the first time – and extraordinary from our own point of view too: our audience would have been about 12 times higher than the BBC or ITV.

ED: And that was before a pen was thrown (laughs).

BO’H: D’you remember? He threw his pen across the desk after the 0-0 with Egypt?

JG: Yeah, 1990 was the big breakthrough.

ED: It was some breakthrough for me! I got killed! I laid my body on the line!

BO’H: Because there was an attempt by us at a kind of forensic analysis of the games people thought we weren’t 100 per cent behind the team. We were actually dancing around the studio after the shoot-out in Genoa.

ED: We were, yeah.

BO’H: That was the real us.

ED: You had a funny hat on Bill.

BO’H: I did. We showed it, I kept it on. So that was how we felt. But there’s a difference between real, passionate Irishness and forensic analysis – we have to do our job.

JG: It was complex, it really was complex. Bill, Eamon and myself really want the Irish team to do well, but if you’re analysing it in a professional way you have to forget whether it’s Ireland or any one else. Is this good? Is it not good? When we qualified for the first time whatever we did was great, and it was good . . .

ED: . . . it was shite.

JG: . . . but we had to analyse it as well and we had to be critical of Jack Charlton – and of course Jack was God, he couldn’t do anything wrong. The easiest thing for us would have been to go along with that, but we didn’t do it.

ED: It was an acid test of RTÉ and they backed us up. And it’s important to say that.

BO’H: You got badly treated in Dublin airport, Eamon.

ED: Yeah. I went to Italy after the Egypt game, to the Holland match and then the quarter-final in Rome. When I came back the plane I was on was one hour ahead of the team so the whole place was full of people. So I got caught up in that.

BO’H: You got a fright, didn’t you?

ED: I did, yeah. You know the roundabout just outside the airport? They (supporters) stopped the car there, there were no guards, they started rocking the car, they wanted to turn it over.

Next thing, it was really funny . . . no, actually it was really horrible . . . they stopped us. I was giving a friend a lift. Half of them wanted to kill me, the other half said leave him alone. Two middle-aged women came up and I rolled the window down.

“Can we have a photograph, Eamon,” they said. “No problem!”

So they took photos and then said: “Now, F*** YOU!”.

ALL: (Laughter)

ED: I said to my friend, we’ll have to find a cop, because we couldn’t move. It took about five or six minutes, which doesn’t seem like a long time, but it was. It was very tricky. I used all my charm. The superintendent came along and said “Look Eamon, it’s like this the whole way in on the airport road, go around by Portmarnock, around the back roads”. And that’s what I did. It was quite shocking.

JG: (Laughing) Around by Belfast, he meant.

BO’H: We were all shocked, but it was an extraordinary time.

ED: It was madness.

JG: For people to respond like that – well, it can happen, it was a very emotional time.

BO’H: There was so much pride, but what people didn’t understand was we had to do a job. The lads’ point of view was that the Irish team was much, much better than Jack Charlton allowed it to be, that we could have achieved much more.

ED: Sure, Liam and Ronnie (Whelan) were dropped!

BO’H: I know!

JG: I think there was another element to it, it was an Irish effort – Ireland had qualified for the World Cup, people were watching RTÉ for the first time really. And I always felt, living in England, that there was a huge inferiority complex as far as Britain was concerned. If it was on BBC that was where you watched it, RTÉ was rubbish.

But for the World Cup in 1990 everybody, as Bill said, was watching RTÉ. And I think they were taking pride in it, in a perverse way – they were having a go at us, they were certainly having a go at Eamon, but they were still proud of the programme. Because it was good, in relation to the BBC or anyone else for that matter. That was the peculiar thing about it.

Jose Mourinho

ED: John doesn’t like showmen, never did. Do you?

JG: No.

ED: I love them.

JG: I don’t think there’s any need for them.

ED: Mourinho is not John’s kind of person, but I just think he adds to the gaiety of the game.

JG: But when you achieve what he has achieved, if you’re a brilliant coach, you don’t need anything else, you don’t need to do all that other stuff.

ED: I think he’s insecure, John.

JG: He must be Eamon, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him.

ED: He never achieved anything in football as a player and I think, because of that, he feels he isn’t quite accepted as a great coach. It grates away on him.

JG: It’s like someone achieving fame later on in their life – and fame is an illusion, it’s a total pain in the arse.

BO’H: Not to a fella like Mourinho it’s not.

JG: But he’s only getting it now, Bill. He didn’t get it when he really wanted it, as a player. He’s getting it late, and I think this is the way he would have behaved if he’d made it as a player. He’s making up for it, instead of being secure about what he’s doing well now. He has to be the centre of attention – but he is the centre of attention any way, and that’s what annoys me about him. Sometimes it’s nasty and he doesn’t have to do those things.

Saipan, round 1

ED: I’ve known John for 52, 53 years, and he’s an extraordinarily nice man. When I was in Manchester he looked after me, looked after all the Irish kids. John’s a very decent guy, a good guy.

BO’H: Saipan caused a big problem Eamon, though. Between the two of you.

ED: Oh yeah. I believed what I believed and John believed what he believed. And I was very much a believer in Keane as a person.

BO’H: Liam was against you too.

ED: Oh yeah, very much against me. But, look, I’m a big boy. They said things about me, that I’d been bought, and I said things about John, but I didn’t ever think that it would cause me to lose respect for John. I didn’t think our friendship was dependent on me bottling my opinions or him bottling his. It wasn’t like Kevin Myers meets Eoghan Harris. Or meets me for that matter (laughs). All that shit. I think you have to be grown up about things – you have a fight, you have a row, then you step back in the calm light of day. If you’ve known the person for a long time it doesn’t discount all the things that are great about them. It wasn’t a nice time, though.

JG: I didn’t like it.

ED: I didn’t like it either. It wasn’t nice, but I would be much more consumed by passions than John, he’s a much calmer person. I just felt, f*** it, that’s what I believe, if you don’t like it, “f*** you”. But I’ll see you next week. We’ll have a drink. If you have a fundamental respect for somebody, it’s not going to break on a one-issue thing. We’re not politicians, we’re people. I didn’t regret it, I thought it was full on combat. Let’s go baby!

BO’H: But the argument reflected the huge division in the Irish public. The passion outside was the same as in the studio.

ED: The Taoiseach reminded me the other day, when we were having a drink together . . .

BO’H: Dropping names again.

ED: No, it’s true! He said, you said something terrible about John – and John was there, we were having a few pints with the Taoiseach. He said you called John a terrible thing, an Uncle Tom.

BO’H: On air actually.

ED: On air. It was on Questions and Answers. John Bowman had me pinned to the wall and I couldn’t get out of it, I said they’re Uncle Toms, aren’t they? Himself and Liam. To Cowen’s credit he remembered. I’d forgotten all about that.

BO’H: I suspect John hasn’t.

JG: Well, I remember it. It was hurtful . . .

ED: Ah f*** off.

JG: I’ll tell you why . . .

ED: What about you accusing me of being Keane’s bum-boy?

JG: I never accused you of that.

ED: You did.

JG: I didn’t.

ED: It’s off again!!

JG: I never accused you of that at all. I actually didn’t accuse you of anything.

ED: You did. Both you and Liam said I was on the take, I got the money for the book, that was the implicit criticism. And that I’d bought into the whole Keane thing.

JG: I never said any of that.

MH: So, this summer’s World Cup? . . .

JG: When Eamon said the Uncle Tom business I was hurt because who was I being an Uncle Tom to? The FAI? The . . .

ED: The consensus in the game, the consensus among the players. Mark Lawrenson said Roy didn’t want to be there! And that was the myth out there, that Keane wanted to leave. He didn’t! He wanted to stay, he was kicked out.

JG: But you were involved.

ED: I was in a minority, it was me and Roy against the world!

JG: No, no, there was about 50 per cent on Roy’s side.

ED: That was only when it started, it was 80 per cent when we finished. (Laughs)

JG: But you were into Roy Keane at that stage, which was fair enough, I can understand that. But I was only presenting a point of view, which I still believe today: I think Roy Keane was a troubled lad. I saw him recently, Eamon, where he said he should have realised he wasn’t playing for Mick McCarthy, he was playing for Ireland. His differences were with Mick McCarthy. But it was a very emotive time . . .

BO’H: That division still exists today.

JG: Of course it does. My take at the time was that he should have played.

BO’H: But he was sent home John, that’s the point that you’re forgetting.

JG: No, no.

ED: You are John.

JG: No, no.

ED: You’re wrong.

BO’H: You are.

JG: Bill, this is where you’re wrong.

ED: He’s not wrong.

JG: He is wrong.

ED: No.

JG: He is wrong.

BO’H: I’m not.

JG: You are. I’ll tell you why.

BO’H: Why?

MH: So, the World Cup this summer? . . .

. . . and round 2

JG: If you go back through the series of events, Roy Keane actually went to Mick McCarthy to say he wanted to go home.

ED: Yeah.

JG: Mick McCarthy didn’t send him home.

BO’H: He did in the end, John.

JG: Hang on Bill. You can’t just say “in the end”. He said he wanted to go home. Now, Alex Ferguson then got involved in it and other people.

ED: Alex Ferguson didn’t get involved in it.

. . . some time later.

MH: This summer, the World Cup? Looking forward to it?

. . . and round 3

BO’H: No, no, no John, you’ve got the sequence wrong!

JG: Ferguson didget involved and persuaded Roy Keane to stay.

ED: No, that’s not true. That’s not accurate.

JG: It is. You check it out. He did.

ED: Sure it’s in my book!

BO’H: The trigger for the whole thing, John, was the interview with Tom Humphries when he felt compelled . . .

JG: Look, there was stupid stuff on both sides. But Roy Keane didsay he wanted to go home. And Ferguson didpersuade him to stay. And then Roy Keane did the article with Tom Humphries, which Mick Mc . . .

ED: No, no, no, you’re wrong, completely wrong about that.

JG: I’m not.

ED: The article was the trigger for the row.

JG: No it wasn’t.

ED: It was.

. . .some time later

. . . and round 4

JG: We won’t talk about it.

All: Okay.

JG: We’re going to change the subject.

All: Okay.

ED: Yeah, we are going to change the subject. John hasn’t a f***ing clue about the facts. You stick with the analysis.

BO’H: You are wrong John. There’s part truth in what you’re saying, but not fully. There’s another sequence you’re forgetting.

ED: There is.

JG: (Sigh).

MH: So, this summer, the World Cup . . .

ALL: Laughter.

Musical interlude 2:

Helpless kittens up trees

ED: sing one more for me John. Sing my favourite, the kitten up the tree.

ED and JG: (Laugh)

ED: It’s a private joke.

JG: (Clears throat).

Oh look at me

I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree . . .

. . . I get misty just holding your hand

. . . I’m too misty, and too much in looooooove.


ED: Bravo! Now, that’s kitsch! Back when we were young fellas John used to sing that to poor innocent girls. The key line is “look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree” – next thing they were in room 374.

JG: Not true. He’d burst out laughing at that line, but I’d be singing it seriously.

ED: He’d have the room key in his hand.

JG: Not true. He’d go “f*** me, the kitten worked again”. You have to do your best.

MH: Is this off the record?

ED: No! It’s on the record! Print it all!

So, really, the 2010 World Cup?

JG: Really looking forward to this World Cup.

ED: It’ll be great. There was no nation from these islands in the last European Championships and everybody thought it would be a bummer, but it was a great competition and we did good business.

BO’H: We had great audiences.

ED: We did. And I think this will be a terrific World Cup. England will be in the mix for sure, Brazil and Spain, maybe Argentina.

BO’H: Holland might do well.

ED: Yeah. If you love the game there are only so many World Cups and in our case there’s only a few left.

BO’H: This is my last.

ED: And maybe mine.

BO’H: My contract expires after the London Olympics and that’s the end of it.

JG: Bill, who said it’s your last?

ED: We won’t let you go Bill.

JG: No.

ED: We just enjoy the work we do. We like each other and we love the people we work with, on the floor and up in the edit suites. We love working with Liam and particularly Ronnie. We’re all great pals. We’re very, very lucky that we have a job that is our passion.

JG: It’s not hard work.

ED: It’s not, but you have to pay attention. Bill does more preparation than anyone.

BO’H: I have to.

ED: Bill is the key to it. He’s a brilliant anchor, he’s very professional and he’s paying attention all the time. He indulges us in many ways, he’s a key component.

“But it isn’t about us, it’s about football, we’re only an add-on – what do you call it? An app. In modern technology. We’re just an appendage to the occasion. But you have to be serious about what you’re doing without necessarily believing that it’s heart surgery or social work. Although it is a bit of social work, isn’t it?

ALL: (Laughter).